New Delhi: The central government is planning a slew of measures to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak, but many states have taken the lead in earmarking allocations and relief measures for the poor and those in the unorganised sector.
The packages announced by many states have centred around making foodgrains available to the poor, financial aid to labourers and construction workers, and expediting pension to be paid to poor beneficiaries.
Economists and Right to Food activists have been very vocal on the need for direct income transfer to the poorest sections of society, at a time when many livelihoods have been disrupted by the halt in economic activity due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Here’s what some of the big states have announced:
Kerala was the first state to offer a comprehensive relief package to the needy, worth Rs 20,000 crore.
The package includes loans for families under its Kudumbashree scheme that aims at poverty eradication and women empowerment, advance payments of pension to senior citizens, Rs 1,000 to families not eligible for other social welfare pensions, and front-loading of spending on the rural employment guarantee scheme.
Families have also been promised one month of cereals. The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government also proposes to set up food stalls to provide subsidised or free meals for the poor. It has also allowed delayed payment of water and electricity bills.
The government has said the state will ensure that nobody goes hungry, and plans to start a community kitchen in every panchayat. After the national lockdown was announced, Vijayan said a dedicated number has been assigned where people can make a free call and get food delivered to their location.
Vijayan also said the onus is on the panchayats to ensure hot, clean food reaches people who may be old, poor, ill or differently abled.
UP was also one of the earliest states to announce financial relief for labourers. Last Saturday, the state government announced it will give Rs 1,000 to each of the around 35 lakh labourers as ‘maintenance allowance’.
Besides this, 1.65 crore construction workers will be given free ration for a month, a release issued by the state government said.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also directed his officials to release payments for workers registered under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also announced on 21 March that his government will pay Rs 4,000-5,000 pension to 8.5 lakh beneficiaries by 7 April. It will also give free rations, with 50 per cent more quantity than normal entitlements, to 72 lakh beneficiaries.
Corona restrictions causing terrible financial stress to poor. Following decisions taken to provide them relief-
1. Rs 4000- 5000 pension will be paid to 8.5 lakh beneficiaries by 7 Apr
2. Free rations, with 50% more quantity than normal entitlements, to 72 lakh beneficiaries
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 21, 2020
Bihar has decided to give free ration for a month to all ration card holders.
The Nitish Kumar-led government has also announced three months of advance pension for the elderly, disabled persons and widows, Rs 1,000 financial assistance to families in lockdown areas (before the whole country went under lockdown), and a performance bonus equivalent to one month’s pay to the health workers battling Covid-19.
कोरोना से मुकाबला : बिहार पैकेज
(1) 1 करोड़ 68 लाख राशन कार्ड धारियों को एक माह का राशन मुफ्त।
(2) 85 लाख 70 हजार से ज्यादा वृद्धजन, विधवा व दिव्यांगों को 3 माह के पेंशन का अग्रिम भुगतान।
(3) लाॅकडाउन क्षेत्र के सभी राशन कार्ड धारियों को 1 हजार रुपये की सहायता।
— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) March 23, 2020
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government has also allocated Rs 45 crore to districts worst affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Thackeray has appealed to businesses, including small shopkeepers, to not fire their staff during this period.
The Maharashtra labour commissioner has directed labour department officials to issue advisories in this regard to employers and owners of all establishments.
Tamil Nadu has also promised one month’s free ration, including rice, cooking oil, pulses and sugar, to all ration card holders. The Edappadi Palaniswami-led government has also promised cash support of Rs 1,000 to them.
Karnataka’s B.S. Yediyurappa government has announced loan waivers for the urban poor, Rs 1,000 for construction workers who have been rendered jobless, and advance payment of wages to beneficiaries of the rural employment guarantee scheme.
The government had decided to allow free food to be served through the Indira Canteens, the food chain it runs, to help labourers and people from the unorganised sector eat as restaurants have been shut. However, the huge rush at the canteens forced the government to shut them down due to fears of community spread of the coronavirus.
Now, the government has sought the help of the police and other essential service departments to help distribute free food and clean water to the homeless and those in need.
The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led Andhra Pradesh government has announced that all government and private establishments shall make payments of wages and salaries to those working, under contract or outsourcing basis, during the lockdown.
It has also said that if any employer is found violating this order, they would be penalised under the Epidemics Diseases Act, 1897.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee announced Monday that the state government is creating a Rs 200-crore fund to deal with the impact of Covid-19.
(With inputs from Rohini Swamy)
(This report has been updated with new information from different states)